Determining the Future of the Blockchain for Peer Review Initiative

 In our last update, we announced that we had organized a seminar with representatives of several publishers, funders and other scholarly organizations. The goal of the meeting was to determine what we can do more on a collective level to make theBlockchain for Peer Review Meeting peer review process more transparent, efficient and recognizable. With the results of this meeting, we would determine the future of the Blockchain for Peer Review initiative.

The meeting was held in London on September 5th, and was attended by representatives from over 12 organizations, including 10 publishers. Information around pilots and improvements in peer review was shared, followed by fruitful brainstorms and lively discussions.

The general conclusion of the meeting that we could do more in terms of collective action to improve the peer review process, but at the same time there is not one large, specific thing we should focus on:

  • In the last few years, many publishers have conducted experiments around review transparency, either using their own technology or Publons’ solutions. Although it is too early to draw conclusions or to create standards and shared policies, there is a need to establish a standardized vocabulary around open peer review. There is a desire to exchange Blockchain for Peer Review Meeting 1information on a regular basis around the results of these pilots. 
  • Overall, participants feel that the activities around recognition in the last few years (by Publons and ORCID as well as individual publishers) are starting to mature and that we do not need a significant improvement here. What we do need is to ‘close the loop’ with funders and institutions. This means that we have to provide them with the information around peer review activities and encourage them to see peer review as a genuine and important research activity. 

Based on these outcomes, we have developed a list of actions that will be followed-up in the coming months. These include defining a common terminology around peer review; working on closing the loop with funders and institutions; and organizing regular follow-up meetings where experiences around open review models are shared.

So where does that leave the Blockchain for Peer Review initiative?

As we mentioned in the last blog post, with several initiatives gaining momentum, we have to ensure we do not duplicate effort and instead develop initiatives in a way that is efficient and good for the community.
In light of the conclusions above, the steering committee of the Blockchain for Peer Review initiative decided not to move the initiative beyond the pilot phase.

Bringing the project to the next (production) phase would require an investment: not just financially, but also in terms of changing processes and workflows. In light of the growing traction of existing initiatives and the lack of a clear priority to organize collective action beyond that, we feel that such a change would not be justified at this stage.

The consensus is that focusing on existing initiatives is a more efficient path towards making the peer review process more transparent, efficient and recognizable.

We do feel however that we learned a lot and gained a lot of experience that can be used for our future collective efforts in peer review and beyond:

  • We developed an organizational and legal framework for collaborating on a topic that is complex from an operational, legal, competition, confidentiality and privacy perspective.
  • We created a framework agreement that was signed by the participating publishers.
  • We learned a lot about the implications for GDPR for collective infrastructures in general, and blockchain applications specifically. Throughout the project, it became clear that storing information on the blockchain, although being pseudonymous, does not exempt publishers from GDPR requirements. As a result, with our supplier Katalsyis we designed a fully GDPR compliant architecture where no personal information is stored on the blockchain itself. This architecture could be re-used for storing and sharing other types of information among publishers and other participants in the academic ecosystem.
  • Storing metadata on the blockchain around the peer review process meant we had to standardize reviewer recommendations across journals, publishers and disciplines, work that can be reused for other applications and initiatives.
  • Through our initiative we brought a lot of people and organizations together in our effort to improve the peer review process: not just the members of the initiative, but also beyond that through our seminar and by speaking at various conferences and meetings.

Overall, we feel we have matured in terms of making a collective effort in peer review, and the members will remain involved and committed – through working with ORCID, Publons, PEERE or other initiatives. 

We thank you for your interest in this initiative. Please feel free to reach out for any questions or suggestions via 

On behalf of the members,
Joris van Rossum
Project lead, Blockchain for Peer Review